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Hoxton meets The pains of being pure at heart

Bittles‘ Magazine | Concert: The Pains Of being Pure At Heart

As the show is about to start, a swell of expectation rises through the crowd. Then, suddenly a huge eruption of cheers, give a raucous welcome to these five battle hardy purveyors of fine indie rock. Suddenly the warm beer, the lack of room, the idiot in front of me trying desperately to pogo, and the overwhelming stench of sweat matter no more. Because The Pains Of being Pure At Heart have swaggered confidently onto the stage, and their set is about to begin. By JOHN BITTLES

Photo: Mandy Capela
Photo: Mandy Capela
First coming to prominence to most eagle eared hipsters back in 2007 when they self-released the lo-fi, indie scuzz of their debut EP, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are one of those bands that seem as if they were born cool. Hailing from New York, the band are now onto their third album with the excellent ›Days Of Abandon‹ having just come out in May. And what an album it is! While their self-titled first LP was decidedly tinny sounding, and follow-up ›Belong‹ saw them swinging too far the other way, ›Days Of Abandon‹ is the record we always knew they were capable of. The sound is clean, but still has that New York edge, while a wistful, almost nostalgic feel replaces the naïve twee-pop that was their go-to sound before.

The new record sees the band truly master their instruments to give the listener a smoother, subtle sound that still brims within its own world of righteous cool. The band’s lyrics have grown up too. There are songs that examine the fallibility of hopes and dreams, and the fall out that comes when we realise that none of these aspirations are ever going to come true. Yet, it is not overly cynical, as even through all the trials and tribulations facing each songs character, there is always a distinct sense of hope.

All of which brings us to an overcrowded and overheated ›Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen‹ on an expectant Wednesday night in September. The support bands are nothing to get overly excited about. Night Flowers give us a diverting version of ›C86‹-style music that is not without its charm. Their songs are light and jangly and there are far worse ways to spend your time. In Hester Ullyart they have a vocalist who epitomises femme fatale style cool, while the rest of the band make a fairly decent noise.The best thing I can say about The Vestals though, is that they are a bit bland.

It seems like a long time until The Pains of Being Pure at Heart take to the stage. Lead vocalist Kit Berman walking out with just a guitar to accompany a solo version of ›Art Smock‹ to open the set is a very brave move indeed. That it doesn’t quite work isn’t due to a lack of trying, it’s just that he doesn’t have the voice to pull it off. Still, it does serve to whet the appetite for what is to come. And when the rest of the band stride onstage to perform a rousing rendition of ›Higher Than The Stars‹ most of the audience seem to breath a huge sigh of relief.

From here we are shown a master-class in American alternative rock, that is performed with both passion and soul. Kit is a great front-man. Immediately engaging, he performs with a heart on sleeve sentiment that at times recalls Bruce Springsteen, or a less stoned Kurt Vile. The rest of the band are no slouches either, with Anton Hochheim pounding his drums with obvious relish, while the keyboardist creates a warm sense of melody in amongst all the harsh rock noise.

From the off, the band crank up the volume and give a fantastic set which even has some of the too cool for school East London crowd singing along with glee (you know who you are). Tracks like ›Until The Sun Explodes, Simple & Sure‹ and ›This Love Is Fucking Right‹ have the crowd gasping in pleasure, while the band riff through classics new and old with a gorgeous sense of dramatic flair. ›Young Adult Friction‹, meanwhile, is so good it threatens to bring the roof down. Fists pump the air, people sway in time, and one or two even attempt a bit of mild head-banging near the front of the stage.

Playing with a rough hewn dynamic, the band make a glorious racket while constantly managing to maintain their cool-as-fuck demeanour. Or, to put it in other words; the gig rocks. So much so that as the band walk off-stage there is a huge chorus of cheers and frantic demands for an encore. Something the band seem all to keen to oblige. Kit tells us that they won’t be back to the UK for a while, before playing ›Everything With You‹ and ›Belong‹ which makes everyone present feel thoroughly glad to be alive.

By the end we’re all as hot and sweaty as the band are. And even though we have been battered, bruised, and squeezed into a cramped space for a solid hour, there is a sea of smiles as the crowd set down their beers and begin to depart. The merchandise store does a fair trade, while the rest of us step outside gasping for the unbridled beauty that is fresh air. And with the bouncy buoyancy of ›Young Adult Fiction‹ jumping through my mind as I hop on the tube home I hope it’s not too long before we see The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart in good old London again.

| JOHN BITTLES

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